Islamabad - The appointment of new Higher Education Commission head is one of the major tasks the incumbent federal government has to fulfill within seven days before the expiry of its tenure.

Sources said that after the long process, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has moved the summary of appointment of the next chairperson HEC to the Prime Minister for approval.

The term of the sitting government is going to end on May 31 while the Prime Minister still has to appoint the new chairperson for the higher education regulatory body who recently received above Rs40 billion for the development side in the recently passed budget.

An official said that the search committee formed for short listing of the candidates consumed too much time that the federal government and the Prime Minister who is the competent authority of appointing the new chairperson has been left with only seven days.

“There was a pressure for short listing of the candidates which finally ended on sending four names,” the official said.

A six-member search committee headed by Syed Babar consisted of Dr Sania Nishtar, Dr Faisal Bari, Shehnaz Wazir Ali and Mirza Qamar Baig while Federal Secretary for Education Akbar Ali Durrani was secretary of the committee.

The search committee was formed in January, however, the final four names short listed were sent to the PM last week, the official added.

Reportedly the four names shortlisted included Prof. Dr Iqbal Chaudhry from University of Karachi, Dr Tariq Banuri Ph.d in economics and a professor in Utha (USA), Dr Anwar-ul-Hasan Gillani chairman Pakistan Council for Science and Technology and Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, former Vice Chancellor University of Bahawalpur.

Federal Education Ministry has also sought special permission from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the appointments against the posts of chairman HEC and conducting interviews for the Vice Chancellors (VCs) for Quaid-i-Azam University, International Islamic University and Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU).

However, none of the appointment has been made though procedure was started months ago.

The top post of chairperson HEC after the retirement of former chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed is vacant since April 15 and the department is being run by Executive Director Dr Arshad Ali.

The official added that the federal government also did not nominate the acting head of the institution after the retirement of former chairman.

According to the rules, the government can nominate federal secretary education, science and technology or the ED as acting chairperson of the department.  “The ED was not given the charge of acting head as he was facing the allegations of plagiarism in an inquiry committee,” the official added.

He said the search committee had to finalise three names but the procedure was so lengthy that earlier around eight candidates were shortlisted for the post and after several intensive meetings the list was downsised with four candidates’ names.

Former Chairman HEC Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rehman talking to The Nation said that HEC needs a change for strengthening of the sector in the country.

He said that it is indeed very important appointment and person with transport and dynamic academic background must be given the chance. He said that ranking of Pakistani universities has dropped and not a single university is ranked amongst 200 lists.

He said that Dr Iqbal Chaudhry from the University of Karachi has earned good reputation in research and won three civil awards.

President Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) Dr Kaleem ullah Bareach in a statement said that higher education performance during last four years is abysmal. A number of irregularities and illegalities were observed during this turbulent time including financial and academic.

He said the ranking of universities whether its Times Higher education or QS went down. A short time ago five universities were in top 500 universities of the world and now our varsities are only being included in the list of Asian or emerging economies list, the falling behind of higher education is quite disappointing for us as a nation. 

Secretary Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training Akbar Ali Durrani refused to share the names of shortlisted candidates however said that the decision of appointment will be made very soon.